It's actually a clever setup. "[It] seems that [the] heat signature of a beehive and ... marijuana plants are similar, so they're harder to detect," Dale explains. "When a helicopter or drone flies over using heat signature technology looking for the plants, it looks like a row of beehives. The hives are registered, so when the location is checked against the Department of Agriculture database, the location will show as a registered apiary (bee yard) and be dismissed. Also, honey can be harvested about the same time that the marijuana plants are harvested, so there is little suspicion. The state of Ohio allows for an apiary to be excluded from inspection as a voluntary opt-out." It's an almost foolproof scheme. Unfortunately, "the location that I came across forgot to check that box."
While Dale has only encountered this kind of situation twice in five years, he reports that inspectors in Southern Ohio run into it all the time. A bigger problem for him is the surprising number of people (that is, more than zero) with an equal love for beekeeping and bootlegging. "I have one beekeeper [whose hives I inspect], and I have to carry a walking stick with me to check for bear traps [because] he runs a moonshine still and does not want anyone just showing up on his property and finding it. He does not always remember where he has placed the traps, so I use the stick and keep my eyes to the ground when I walk back to his hives."
Bizarrely, it's legal to make moonshine in Ohio, but "there are still some 'good ol' boys' that feel the government needs to stay out of their business, so they run unregistered stills." That's where this sort of thing becomes an ethical dilemma for Dale. As a government employee, it's bad news for everyone, including him, if he witnesses illegal activity. "As far as reporting, there is a fine line between getting involved and getting shot. I stay out of the reporting-of-stills business, as I don't want to upset anyone. My main concern is the inspection of the hives, and the rest is up to other inspectors." Unfortunately, "with marijuana, it is a must-report." That shit's federal, and "it would be a charge of obstructing justice all the way to accessory to the crime" if he didn't.
God help us if Dale hasn't made at least one "harshing your buzz" pun while reporting them.